Turkey court acquits famed pianist of blasphemy charges

AFP , Wednesday 7 Sep 2016

This file photo taken on February 03, 2010 in Essen, western Germany, shows Turkish pianist Fazil Say posing in front of a piano (Photo: AFP)

A Turkish court acquitted world-renowned pianist Fazil Say of blasphemy on Wednesday, four years after he first went on trial on charges of insulting Islam in a case that raised alarm about freedom of expression in Turkey.

The Istanbul court ruling ends the long-running legal saga which began in October 2012 when Say went on trial on charges "insulting religious beliefs" in a series of Twitter posts.

In a hugely convoluted process, the Turkish classical star was initially handed a 10-month jail sentence in 2013 before a retrial was ordered the same year in which he received an identical sentence.

But the the Supreme Court of Appeal in October 2015 overturned the sentence, sending it back to a lower court for a final ruling.

And the Istanbul court on Wednesday supported the appeal court decision to overturn the sentence against Say and ruled he should be acquitted, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The charismatic pianist -- who is also a renowned composer -- was prosecuted for Twitter posts in 2012 that allegedly attacked Muslims.

One of which was a retweet which said: "I am not sure if you have also realised it, but all the pricks, low-lives, buffoons, thieves, jesters, they are all Allahists. Is this a paradox?"

Say, 45, has played with orchestras across the world including in Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Israel and regularly gives sold-out solo recitals that often mix Mozart with Turkish traditional sounds.

He has also served as a cultural ambassador for the European Union.

Last October, the appeal court ruled by a four-to-one majority that Say's comments should be viewed as "freedom of thought and expression and thus should not be punished".

Demanding his acquittal, Say's lawyer said that his client was only sharing his opinions.

"My client did not write an article neither did he show a film. He shared his opinions and retweeted opposing opinions. The real outrage was the opening of this case," Meltem Akyol said, quoted by Dogan news agency.

The case against Say, an atheist, caused consternation among secular Turks worried about what they see as a creeping Islamism under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The government critic also previously accused Erdogan of being behind the case against him and in 2013 he called the charges "politically motivated".

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